Blockchains are a remarkably transparent and decentralised way of recording lists of transactions. Their best-known use is for digital currencies such as Bitcoin, which announced blockchain technology to the world with a headline-grabbing 1000% increase in value in the course of a single month in 2013. This bubble quickly burst, but steady growth since 2015 means Bitcoins are currently valued higher than ever before. There are many different ways of using blockchains to create new currencies. Hundreds of such currencies have been created with different features and aims.
The way blockchain-based currency transactions create fast, cheap and secure public records means that they also can be used for many non-financial tasks, such as casting votes in elections or proving that a document existed at a specific time. Blockchains are particularly well suited to situations where it is necessary to know ownership histories. For example, they could help manage supply chains better, to offer certainty that diamonds are ethically sourced, that clothes are not made in sweatshops and that champagne comes from Champagne. They could help finally resolve the problem of music and video piracy, while enabling digital media to be legitimately bought, sold, inherited and given away second-hand like books, vinyl and video tapes. They also present opportunities in all kinds of public services such as health and welfare payments and, at the frontier of blockchain development, are self-executing contracts paving the way for companies that run themselves without human intervention.
Blockchains shift some control over daily interactions with technology away from central elites, redistributing it among users. In doing so, they make systems more transparent and, perhaps, more democratic. That said, this will not probably not result in a revolution. Indeed, the governments and industry giants investing heavily in blockchain research and development are not trying to make themselves obsolete, but to enhance their services. There are also some wider issues to consider. For example, blockchain’s transparency is fine for matters of public record such as land registries, but what about bank balances and other sensitive data? It is possible (albeit only sometimes and with substantial effort), to identify the individuals associated with transactions. This could compromise their privacy and anonymity. While some blockchains do offer full anonymity, some sensitive information simply should not be distributed in this way. Nevertheless, although blockchains are not the solution for every problem and even if they will not revolutionise every aspect of our lives, they could have a substantial impact in many areas and it is necessary to be prepared for the challenges and opportunities they present.
This report provides an accessible entry point for those in the European Parliament and beyond who are interested in learning more about blockchain development and its potential impacts. In doing so, the aim is to stimulate reflection and discussion of this complicated, controversial and fast-moving technology. The report is non-sequential, so readers are invited to choose the sections that interest them and read them in any order. The section immediately below presents an introduction to how blockchain technology works. The subsequent eight sections each present two-page briefings about how it could be deployed in various application areas, its potential impacts, and its implications for European policy. Finally, a concluding section presents some overall remarks and potential responses to blockchain development.
This video will answer these and other burning questions:
What is bitcoin and what is the blockchain?
How can bitcoin potentially bring value to me?
What are bitcoin miners?
How can I store, send, and receive bitcoin?
What are the fees to use bitcoin? Is bitcoin anonymous?
How do I use a bitcoin ATM?
How does the price of bitcoin get set?
Should I accept bitcoin as payment?
How can I secure my bitcoin?
Is bitcoin legal in the US?
What are all these alternative currencies?
What does the future hold for bitcoin?
This video also includes interviews with influential people in this nascent industry, including Andreas Antonopoulos, Greg Kidd, and a number of bitcoin miners.
Lorne Lantz, a passionate bitcoin entrepreneur and educator, has built multiple financial technology startups. He’s been programming for 20 years, and has deep domain knowledge in banking, payments and bitcoin. Lorne has launched several bitcoin projects and is currently building a more convenient method to remit money to the Philippines.
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